I dimly remember that in Part 5, we’d arrived in Paris’ Gare du Nord rail station from Dieppe, via Rouen on a super swish very fast TGV train.
Everything seemed exciting to me – the transfer to the Gare de Lyon rail station via Paris’ enormous Metro system. Even the short walk to the Holiday Inn Express through the Paris darkness, just a half mile from the station was kind of thrilling. It was made even more exhilarating because my significant other (no… not the dog!) had left her suitcase on the concourse in Gare de Lyon. By mistake. Take your eye off the ball and that’s what can happen after a long train journey.
Suddenly on the busy zebra crossing, through a sea of taxis, my wife channelled Edward Munch’s “The Scream”, did a volte-face (see what I did there?) like a locomotive, back into the station. To our relief the French people hadn’t let us down. Don’t believe what you may have read elsewhere. The missing suitcase hadn’t been stolen or detonated by one of the gendarmerie’s bomb disposal robots.
Holiday Inn, Gare de Lyon
We arrived for our overnight stay in Paris’ Holiday Inn – Gare de Lyon Bastille. It’s a very nice ornate hotel close to the station which we can definitely recommend. Our standard room was very smart and definitely big enough for 3 of us… okay 2 and a bit. We took the continental breakfast which was a bit light on substance but low priced! We each got a croissant, un café and a small pot of jam for €7.50. Well… cheap for Paris!
The next morning after a visit to a very down-at-heel patch of grass and weeds that passed as his bathroom, our poor little mutt was ready to venture back to the Gare de Lyon and the train to Barcelona Sants. It was very busy in the station. After all Barcelona is the cool destination. Even though it was only 12˚C in the station I was pleased to see it was only 7˚C back home. “Ah schadenfreude my old friend, it’s so good to meet you again.”
Ticket to ride
We needed to visit the French booking office to get Piper a ticket to Barcelona. While you can get your own tickets from www.internationalrail.com you can’t get one for your mutt(s). You have to buy them at the departing station. Different railway providers have their own rules about the carriage of pets. They need to know if you have a teacup Chihuahua (we haven’t!) or a Rottweiler. The authorities need you to have your dog in a cage or pen to get them on the train.
By the time we’d got off the platform it turned out we were too tired to get the pet’s ticket. We’d do it the next day prior to travelling to Almeria. It worked out okay on the day, but it was a bit worrying. There were a lot of people waiting for service in the large open plan booking office in the morning about 9:00AM. But there weren’t a lot of staff on duty.
You have to take a ticket from the usual type of ticket machine and wait for your number to appear on a clerk’s screen – just like at the supermarket deli counter. Everyone else’s number appeared to come up except ours. You know that feeling. Eventually a pleasant lady saw us and we bought the ticket for Piper, about €17 I think, half the adult fare anyway. As it happened we still had time in hand so I needn’t have worried. We made our way to the platform area.
Snaking through the snow
After a lot of people watching we got the call to board. Our train looked like an immensely long shiny boa constrictor. We tracked our coach down and went through a bit of a struggle to cajole our luggage into place. Settling into comfortable seats to enjoy the 10 hour ride south, the colour display screen proudly announced we were cruising at speeds of around 295 kmph (183 mph).
… In mid France we saw lots of snow from our warm, comfy seats …
Arrival at Sants
Eventually we pulled into Barcelone Sants rail station after 6 1/2 hours on the train. Sants is a huge modern space on 2 levels – one for the locos – packed with people and many similar looking entrances and exits. Eventually after a smart move to the booking office where I bought a canine friendly ticket ready for the next day, we’d managed to find our Airbnb accommodation the previous evening. This was even though the apartment was only a 15 minute walk away from the station. It’s always a challenge to track down the location of Airbnb apartments abroad if you don’t speak the language, because if the owner’s have bothered to detail it, the translation app (usually Google Translate for me) often doesn’t quite translate the directions faithfully. The more complex the instructions, the more unfaithful the translation as well.
If you enjoyed this, why not read Part 7 (Barcelona to Almeria)?